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Houseworks: Build a deck you can love

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If you plan to build or rebuild your deck this year, I have something to warn you. This warning is actually given to you by people who built all-wood decks more than four to five years ago but didn’t know what they were in. “I wish someone could tell me how much work I needed to do to make my wooden deck look good!” A phrase I often read in emails. That’s the main reason people choose non-wood options for the walking surface of their decks, and that’s the only biggest reason why decks can look better than ever with less effort.

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Non-wood deck “timber” can be made of composite (50/50 blend of recycled wood fiber and plastic) or entirely plastic. For the sake of clarity, both types are referred to as “composites”, but the main advantages are the same in both cases. Composites eliminate the need for finishing and refinishing if you want the outdoor deckwood to not look like an old barn. It’s easy enough. What’s missing is an understanding of what you can expect from a composite deck. I’m a big fan of this material and use it regularly in my work, but it takes some education to understand all the reasons.

The fake wood grain pattern on this composite deck board won't be fooled by anyone, but it still looks great. Today's composite deck materials come in a variety of colors and textures.
The fake wood grain pattern on this composite deck board won’t be fooled by anyone, but it still looks great. Today’s composite deck materials come in a variety of colors and textures. Photo by Photo Steve Maxwell

Understand the cost

Composite decks usually cost more than most all wood timbers, but you need to take this cost into account. If you pay extra for the composite, you’re actually getting out of all the preparatory work and finishing and refinishing the cost and effort over the life of the deck. You are also buying yourself from the nasty notion of “Oh, I really need to refinish that deck.”

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When I built a wraparound balcony in my house, I made a floor with eastern white pine. It was beautifully finished and was repaired once every three or four years, but it was still a difficult task. I removed the cedar, let go of perfectly good wood and replaced the entire walking surface with Trex composite. That was a big improvement. The freshly finished cedar looked a bit better than Trex, but didn’t take into account everything needed to maintain the look of the wood.


Nothing in this world is completely maintenance-free. This includes composite deck lumber. Composites eliminate the tremendous continuous chore of sanding and refinishing wood decks every few years, but you still need to keep your composites clean. In my experience, do not rely solely on high pressure washers for this task. For best results, start with a pressure washer, scrub the deck with a brush and plenty of running water, and finally do another high pressure washer. As a rinse, I use one of those long-handled brushes that fits the garden hose for the brushing side of things. Also ideal for vehicles.

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Corruption resistance

In my opinion, decks that lasted less than 50 years before failing to rot weren’t built properly. I know that a deck I made 25 years ago looks just as good today as it did when it’s new, so a half-century life is perfectly possible. They should be there for at least another 25 years. Composite deck lumber is completely resistant to rot and is a great help in extending the life of the deck. Importantly, the composite can only be used on the walking surface of the deck, not on the support structure. Therefore, you still rely on wood for the stanchions, beams, and joists below. Check out baileylineroad.com / how-to-build-a-great-deck / for structural details to extend the life of your deck and make your deck design look more beautiful.

Steve Maxwell loves spending time on covered decks, especially when it’s raining. Visit Steve Online at BaileyLineRoad.com for thousands of Canadian-made articles and videos on home improvement, tools, and creative lifestyles.

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Houseworks: Build a deck you can love

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